Failure of the planned first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit will inevitably escalate military tensions between the two nations back to 2017 levels, Ri Pyong Hwi, an associate professor at the pro-Pyongyang Korea University in Japan, said on Saturday.
In comments to reporters at a meeting at the Asia Press Club’s monthly meeting in Tokyo, Ri, whose university was established in 1956 by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (better known as Chongryn), said that a North Korean missile test was likely should the June 12 summit not produce results.
U.S. President Donald Trump would then be compelled to launch military attacks against Pyongyang, Ri said, in a rare public statement by a professor linked to an organization often described as North Korea’s unofficial embassy in Japan.
Pyongyang, because it is yet to achieve military technology fully capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, would then be forced to target South Korea and Japan with missiles, he continued.
“East Asia would be in flames, so we have to avoid this worst situation by all means,” Ri stressed.
Looking to the planned summit, the scholar said the U.S. and North Korea may be unable to narrow a major point of contention on whether Pyongyang should abandon its nuclear weapons first or take a gradual, step-by-step process of denuclearization.
“If the negotiations between the two nations fail later on, four neighboring countries involving Japan and Russia should intervene in this issue,” Ri said.
“We cannot trust President Trump’s words only, and we need to think about how to establish security system.”
If the U.S. wants to demand North Korea dismantle its nuclear weapons, he said, it needs to sign a peace accord with Pyongyang and end hostile relations through the normalization of diplomatic ties.
On the contrary, Ri said, hawks such as U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton are requesting Pyongyang carry out the permanent, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (PVID) of its nuclear program.
“John Bolton and Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe are currently the ultimate hardliners against Pyongyang,” he argued.
The Abe administration has in the past few months continued to call for maintaining “maximum pressure” on North Korea until the issues of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals as well as nuclear and missile problems are solved.
“There has been actually an optimism at the Blue House in Seoul that once the joint US-South Korean annual “Max Thunder” air drills finished on May 25, high-level inter-Korea talks will surely come around again,” he said.
“As the military exercises concluded on Saturday, both the U.S. and North Korea are now expecting President Moon to have a brokering and intermediary role between the two nations towards the U.S.-DPRK summit.”
Asked about the effects of international economic sanctions on North Korea, Ri said ongoing measures have most likely affected the nation’s basic industries, but had not had a significant on people’s lives yet.
“Since the nation cannot sell fisheries products and mine materials abroad, plenty of those products are currently marketing in Pyongyang domestically, and as a result people are eating valuable tuna and shrimp,” he said.
“Trading merchants along the border between China and DPRK have been evading economic sanctions through back door commercial channels for many years… So, even if the international community enforces sanctions further, local people there won’t raise the white flag in surrender.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA
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